Armenian-Lebanese minister's 'racist outburst' reignites traditional tensions with Turkey

Armenian-Lebanese minister's 'racist outburst' reignites traditional tensions with Turkey
Lebanon's tourism minister, Avadis Kadanian, has come under fire for racist comments against Turkey on Lebanese TV.
2 min read
02 Apr, 2017
The Lebanese tourism minister has been urged to resign [Screenshot: MTV Lebanon]

Lebanon's tourism minister has come under fire for "racist comments" after saying how happy he was about Turkey's current problems during an interview on Lebanese TV.

Avadis Kadanian, who is also the deputy chairman of the small Armenian Tashnag Party, said he would prefer Lebanon has no diplomatic relations with Turkey during an interview on MTV Lebanon.

The tourism minister also said he did not want Turkish tourists to feel welcome in Lebanon.

"I would not promote anything related to Turkey, none of their products, or establish relations with them. I cannot prevent Turks from coming to Lebanon and I do not want to welcome them at an airport," Kadanian said.

Some believe it reflects traditional antipathy towards Ankara by Lebanese-Armenians due to massacres by Ottoman soldiers against Armenian civilians during World War 1.

Yerevan, some scholars and European countries have described the killings as an act of genocide, during the forced deportation of Armenians from Anatolia to Arab lands in the south.

The descendents of these Armenians who survived the killings and settled in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine are often deeply resentful of Ankara's refusal to accept responsibility for the massacres.

But the remarks prompted a backlash in Lebanon, including from former Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi who called on Kadanian to immediately resign.

Online, the hashtag #KadanianApologizeOrResign began to trend after social media users weighed in on the debate.

The mostly Turkish social media users called on the minister to take responsibility for the comments.

"How come a minister of Lebanon, a country which has good relations with Turkey, can make such racist comments against Turkish people?" a tweet read.

Politicians regularly face criticism in Lebanon, where the government is accused of widespread corruption.

Last week, the country's Prime Minister Saad Hariri was forced to abandon his car after large crowds of angry anti-tax protesters blocked his passage, chanting anti-government slogans and insults. 

Angry demonstrators chanted the word "thief" at Hariri during the protest outside the Grand Serail in downtown Beirut.

According to Transparency International, Lebanon is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The anti-corruption NGO's 2015 report on perceptions of corruption placed Lebanon joint 123rd in the world out of 170 countries listed.